Thursday, August 5, 2010

Signing off

8-5-10: Southeast of La Cross, Wisconsin in an Amtrak Superliner bound for Chicago.

Well, I this is it. In another 4 hours I’m be in the Chicago station with a 3-4 hr layover for my Clev bound train. Can’t say that this has been a blast on the train, especially at night – not like I remembered some 20 yrs ago when I could just snatch a bulkhead seat and then sleep on the floor at night. Not on this train anyway. The bulkhead seats are reserved for parities of two. So I had to do a regular seat. Now they’re much bigger than airline seats, but sleeping in them – forget it. Especially when the train was full last night and I had someone next to me. It was just torture plain and simple. I got in every contorted position possible, and maybe, just maybe snagged 3 or so hours of total sleep. I even imbibed in some of my aged bourbon whiskey to kind of help the effect of slumber, but to no avail.

So really, that totally sucked, the sleep part. But what was interesting was going through Montana and North Dakota yesterday and seeing the stretches of road I rode on, and even going through some of the towns that I had stopped over at – brought back a lot of good memories. As we jammed through Montana I just couldn’t help but think back to all those ass-kicking days in that state, and the miles of nothingness. I even heard people on the train comment on how vast and wide that place is. It’s like a wide screen cinema in front of you, and it just wraps around every part of your senses.

I ended up not doing the diner car last night – just too much BS with dinner reservations, and then you kind of have to eat when they want to fit you in. I could have gotten in at like 5 pm, but I was in no mood to eat that early. So I eventually went to the café car and got a sub and a ham sandwich, both of which were pretty lousy. Thankfully I had brought a small arsenal of food on board, in addition to my alcohol, so I didn’t need to order but that one meal for 2 straight days of training across the country. This stuff was like the junk you buy in a convenient food store and pop in the micro wave. So I also got a couple of beers at the café and then went back to eat. So that was my grand dining experience.

Also steered clear of the observation car due to the converging of humanity up there to the point to where it was just chaos. Felt much better in my little cocoon coach seat. Pulled out my “stash” around 10 PM and have a couple of small waterbottles of whiskey. Woke up this morning feeling like I was a participant of some kind of grad student sleep deprivation study – on day two. Just pathetic feeling all the way around. Did like a mini “marine shower” down in the handicapped bathroom where I did just enough to get my face, pits and arms and hands swabbed clean for the good morning call. Woke up just around Fargo, ND, and finally became human around St. Paul MN. Did some skyping and eating my breakfast bars from the food stash, and then went to the café for some coffee. At least the coffee is quality!

We crossed the Mississippi River from Minnesota into Wisconsin, and I’ll tell you, that river is massive. I remember when I crossed it way the hell up in Northern MN, and it was just about the size of a creek. On the train, back there at the border, seemed like a mile wide! Train just now stopped at Tomah, WI, and I’m kind of running out of stuff here to say. I’m tired. My ass is some sort of sore from sitting. And I’m way to anxious to get the hell done with this all. The time is right to end.

So I just want to thank everyone for checking out the blogsite and sending me words of encouragement every now and then. I always felt like you were this invisible companion out there with me. This has been a dynamite trip, and I feel really lucky to have had the opportunity to do it. So until next year, whatever that endeavor that will be, I’m going to sign out for 2010 and say: All the best; have a great year; and………..I’m OUT!............Pete

Wednesday, August 4, 2010

Blogging on a Real Train

8-4-10: Whitefish, Montana up to West Glacier, Montana in an Amtrak Superliner

Yea, I’ve been pretty lax in the blogging for the last couple of days. And with good reason, I mean seriously, other than doing an adventure - where life on the road can be funny, crazy, scary, the whole gamut - my regular life is pretty mundane, so I find it kind of laughable to think that it’s necessary to just “blog” my little “non-adventure” nothings and ramblings onto the net on a daily basis and believe that people are going to wait with baited breath to read such gibberish. So maybe like two more blogs to go then I’m going to pull the plug and get back to my day to day existace.

Spent the last two days in downtown Seattle, up in the Capital Hill district at my sister’s friend Duane’s appt. Duane was one heck of a great sport hosting me for 3.5 days. He has cats, and a couple of them are pretty skittish, so I was hoping I wouldn’t have the “Gladden” curse on them as my sister had a year or so back, where Duane eventually had to take one of the cats in to the vet due to a “bashful bladder” episode. Luckily, the cat felt more at home pissing in the litter box with me there than my sister! That made me feel good – take that Kim.

Now Duane has a great location, being just about 1.5 miles up above the downtown area. And his view out of the living room window is to die for, let alone one the roof where we hung out a couple of times and just knocked back a few brews and watched the sun set over the Sound. Saturday we strolled downtown and checked out the market place and scoped some places to eat. Ended up going back to that Vietnamese place where I had the massive spring rolls….then to this pretty tasty Indian restaurant. And that was pretty much the story of my stay there – walk around a bit (and leave the appt for a bit so Mr. Blue, the kitty with the bashful bladder, could have some piece and quiet so he could take a leak), eat, walk, eat, walk, and on and on. Have to say that I’d eaten more Vietnamese food in that 3-day stint in Seattle than all the combined Vietnamese sittings in various parts of the world. I was just STUCK on the Vietnamese food thing! Just love their soups – hearty, massive, spicy and filling.

It’s just been glorious to NOT have to ride for the past several days, yet I was still waking at around 5:30 each and every morning while at Duane’s appt. That’s still my rhythm of life, and I hope this train ride breaks the rhythm what with trying to sleep in a seat for 3 nights in a row. Boarded this #8 Empire Builder Amtrak Superliner yesterday at around 5:30 PM for the 2-day trip to Chicago. I had cooked some food for this trip at Duane’s appt. – fried chicken, chicken strips – and then purchased some additional items such as jerky, sport bars, trail mix ……..and a great big bottle of chocolate stout and a pint bottle of prime aged bourbon whiskey. Now alchohol is not allowed to be brought on board unless you have a sleeper car. Guess they figure that if you’re paying a thousand bucks to do a sleeper you deserve not to have to pay six bucks of a one shot mixed drink or four bucks for a bottle of beer.

But hell, you know me – scofflaw that I am – I’m bringing my own private stock by God! So anyway, we got rolling after a one hour delay and got my seat. Now the seating situation on Amtrak has changed since the last time I rode this – about 20 years ago I went 15 thousand miles all across the US. And back then you could just get any seat you wanted, and I always went for the bulkhead seats due to them having tons of extra room. Well, on this train, and it’s probably the way they do things now, they put up “reserved for parties of two” signs all over the coach, and the bulkheads were prime party of two areas. I laid out my Bob yak bag on the floor in front of me because it contained my food and drink, than and my computer where right alongside my seat. The ride goes along the very Rt 2 that I had ridden, and it was so much fun watching that road from a different perspective – especially seeing that the wind was blowing hard out of the west.

The train went north out of Seattle, right past where I finished the trip at the beach and lighthouse, and then veered to the right to go easy up to the Steven’s Pass area in the Cascades. I was a fantastic run up into the Cascades as we went over the Skykomish river numerous times on the climb up to the pass. That’s about the time I cracked open my chocolate stout – ahhhhhh, fantastic even slightly warm. Had some chicken and trail mix for dinner out of my bag. Which leads me to the next rambling: eating on Amtrak. Well, eating on Amtrak is analogous to eating in an airport – freaking stupid expensive. The meals in the dining car are fun, kind relaxing, and a neat experience, and I’ll likely have ONE dinner in the dining car out of the 3-day trip. But they’re portioned just a smidge bigger than airline meals, and they’re just too much money – like 13 bucks for pasta dishes and 18 bucks for meat dishes. They also have 10 dollar breakfasts and lunches, along with a café car where they sell sandwiches, small pizzas, beer, wine, pop, coffee etc.

So I brought enough food to last me all the way to Chicago allowing for just one diner car dinner. Anyway, after my chicken and trail mix dinner, it was starting to get dark and that was my chance to pop the top on my finely aged bourbon whiskey, and pour some into one of my strategically placed water bottles – ahhhhhhhh, wonderful! Just sipped whiskey as we climbed up over and then descended the Cascades. That was it, and the next 8 hours was positioning myself in like every crazy sleeping position possible on the two coach chairs I’m in – so far no one has decided to sit by me so I have two seats. I mean I was twisted up like a freaking pretzel at times trying to sleep. Had my camp pillow and an Amtrak pillow. I did sleep but it was about a 2 on a scale of 1-10, with one being just total shit! Woke at my customary 5:30 AM – Mountain Time Zone – and ate more chicken and trail mix, this time for breakfast.

Oh, get this, and this happened yesterday evening. I took my shoes off to relax in the seat, and I guess my socks and feet kind of stunk, I mean really stunk. And I had a foot on the very back of the armrest of the seat in front of me. Like it was nowhere near the lady’s arm in front of me. And in a bit this lady turns around and looks at me and holds her nose and says: “could you please move your foot, it smells!” And I’m like, “wooooooow, sure, no problem.” My feet seemed to smell like my feet do after having climbing shoes on for about two hours – stinky as all hell. I had specifically taken a shower just before I left for the train, because I knew I wouldn’t have a shower for 2-3 days. And I was kind of freaked, because all of a sudden I could really smell them. So I changed socks fast for the second time in a day - and then grabbed and took a whiff of my shoes – holy *&%&$^$#%^# - they were the main culprit, just absolutely horrible! And those shoes were right under this lady’s seat. I quickly got a plastic bag out of my yak bag and tied the shoes up – suffocating that rancid, rotten shoe smell. That did the trick and now I only take those stink bombs out of the bag when I need to hit the head or go get some coffee in the café car.

So we’re heading into West Glacier National Park right now, and there’s good old Rt 2 right out the window to my right. Feels fantastic to see that road from here, from a different perspective. Now I tried to use my air card on the train, but most areas are just totally blank with bars. I had to wait until we got to Whitefish to plug in, where I thought there’d be cell service, and then I quickly got on line and sent and received my emails – still pretty slowly. As soon as we got like 5 miles out of Whitefish the signal was gone. I’m hoping to send this blog out when we get to West Glacier where I think there will be some cell towers. If not I’ll have to wait until Browning, Montana or a bigger place that has cell service. Right now looks like a cloudy, overcast day out in the Montana Rockies. It’s funny, I’ve been on the train for like 16 hours. On my bike going west, that stretch had taken me about 7-8 days to complete. I’m really looking forward to getting on to the Great Plains and watching that gnarly stretch just flash by.

Well, that’s about it. I’ll do like one more blog from the train and then that will be it for this year on my blogging. Look forward to getting home and seeing everyone. All the best……..Pete

Sunday, August 1, 2010

Postscript day 1

8-1-10: Seattle, Washington: Noah’s Bagel Shop, Broadway Ave.

Well, just sitting here at 7:35 AM on a lazy Sunday morning in Seattle having a nice strong coffee, some sesame seed bagels and a spinach and egg panini. Damn does it feel good, for the second day in a row to not to pull on those dank cycling shorts, prep gear, and get on the bike and ride. Ending feels so glorious. Looking back on it all feels so amazing. But I know though that as the weeks start to pass, and August turns into September, and September gives way to October, be damned if I won’t start longing for those care-free days on the road again. I guess it’s in my blood – that wonderlust thing. Something about new places and new faces each and every day that just heightens and exaggerates the joy of being alive. Some days it’s like a spike in the arm the buzz is so great. But today, nope, today is part of that period of time for reflection on the adventure. You can’t be on the high forever! So I sit here in Seattle with a kind of post-adventure hangover.

It’s funny how everything involved in an adventure kind of goes together to make the whole experience so wonderful – the pre-trip preparation with the anticipation, planning and the nervousness; the actual trip itself where you go through a roller coaster of emotions for weeks and months on end, with good days, bad days, great days and stellar days; and then there’s the end, where, as you get closer and closer to the terminal point you ready yourself to be finished, both mentally and physically; and then when you’re done you can just sit down and let those memories replay like a endless film loop over and over again in your mind. It all seems to fit together so perfectly and seamlessly. And it’s this whole experience, the pre, during, and post, that stirs the soul for yet more and more adventures. So you probably think I’m leading into the next adventure…, not really. And that’s the big question I’m asked now that I’m finished: “What’s next?”

Honestly, I just want to savor this trip and these memories and experiences before I just let go of them in search of yet another adrenaline buzz down the road. Yea, for sure I have all these crazy ideas that constantly run through my head, and some rank right up there as real potential candidates, but for right now I’m quite content to let this trip’s imagery play and replay in my mind. The Canadian adventure and now my US adventure, they’ve kind of renewed my thirst for adventure, the thirst I had back when I was in college. Then, some thirty years ago, I’d spend countless hours up on the tenth floor of the Kent State Library pouring through old books and memoirs of famous adventurers like Alexander McKenzie and Lewis and Clark, just marveling at their grit, determination, persistence and thirst for adventure as they explored yet unexplored hinterlands of North America. I envied their experiences, and eventually developed what at that time I called my “hit list” of the trips I wanted to do in life. Today it’s called the Bucket List. Well, I still have my “Bucket List,” and it’s a faded piece of notebook paper that I keep in my top desk drawer. Up until last year, when Ryan and I decided to do the Canadian adventure, I hadn’t looked at that list for over twenty years. But just prior to, and since the Canadian Adventure, I’ve checked that list out numerous times. I’ve checked off yet another item having just finished my trip across the US.

Heck, and the crazy thing is that despite the fact that I still have many items left on the original list, be damned of I couldn’t, right now, ADD more items to that bloody list! To me, doing stuff like this is life changing, and very magical. And it all feeds on itself.

Examining this trip as compared to last year’s Canadian cycling adventure, I’d really have to say this was much more difficult, that because of two things – doing it solo and doing it from east to west. First the solo aspect: Soloing is something that I love and hate. I love soloing because it forces me to deal with myself on a full-time basis. You have to be comfortable with yourself to have to deal with yourself being alone so much – sometimes you’re your best companion! I really dig that, because it’s so bloody challenging. I can only depend on me each and every day. I talk to myself, think to myself, argue with myself like Tom Hanks did in the movie “Stranded”, and sometimes I think I’m going insane. I go through a gamut of emotions on an hourly and daily basis. I really believe that soloing makes you a stronger person, both mentally and physically.

But there also a part of soloing that I hate, and that’s the lonely part, the part where you cannot share the experiences with anyone at the end of the day. No taking and rehashing, no sense of kinship, no bonding, no brotherhood and sisterhood stuff in the solo. It’s something that cannot be shared. It’s a selfish endeavor. And no matter what I tell you, explain to you, show you with pictures, you’ll just not “get it” like I did. Take my “Billion Dollar Day” in the blog, the second to last day of the trip where Barney joined me. THAT is sharing an experience. That day, that moment, that ride – he get’s it! And I was privileged to be able to share that day with a friend and fellow adventurer like Barney. Sharing that experience heightened the moment, and eventually the day – and the trip!

The second aspect of this trip VS last year’s Canadian trip was of coarse the fact that I did it from east to west, bucking all traditional conventions. Going east to west was going counter to the prevailing winds, the same winds that sent Ryan and I across Canada on 120-150 miles days with tailwinds that were just beyond amazing. Yup, there were days where we’d average over 20 mph for nearly 100 miles due to the westerlies – and that was with our pulling some 85 pounds of gear. On this trip, I think the very, VERY best day I had I averaged about 16 mph, and that was with a tailwind. Most of the time my average was in the 10-12 mph range, with some sort of headwind each and every day. And what I lucked out on by not having the super tough Rocky Mountain climbing this year that I had last year, well, I gained the toughness factor back x 100 in the headwinds I took on each and every day.

Now I wasn’t stupid, and totally knew what I was getting into when I decided to ride east to west. But for the life of me, I’d done west to east – I just had to try east to west for the challenge of those winds, those same winds that sent me into a state of crazy back in ’09 at times crossing Canada. I think when I had headwinds back in ’09, I was pissed just because I expected the prevailing to ALWAYS be out of the west – “that was our right by God!” Well, not really, but I can only surmise. So this time, I fully expected the winds to we out of the west each and every day. And that was so tough, especially from a mental standpoint, getting up each morning and wondering just how hard the wind was going to be blowing against me, all day long, mile after mile. Go through the blog and look, from about Minnesota onward, the winds were just ferocious. And as I worked my way out of the forests of Minnesota and into the treeless Great Plains, those winds became exponentially tougher – nowhere to hide on the plains!

I remember at a stop in Ray, North Dakota, where I was talking to a couple of locals, and the guy told me: “you think the winds are bad here, wait till you get into Montana!” And he was right. Montana broke me and crushed me like a bug being hit by a semi truck. Montana forced me to dig into places I haven’t dug into for over 11 years – ever since I stopped racing. Montana made my legs hurt so bad that I think they just never recovered from the effort of 450 miles of pain in the plains. Montana was like this foe that I so respected I was humbled by it. Montana forced me to develop gameplans that I’d never done before when doing cross-country bike trips. But Montana gave me the biggest sense of accomplishment once I left her border. Montana made me a strong man!

So there it is – ramblings of a mad man. I really do look forward to coming back to Ohio to see my friends and family. Despite all the places I’ve seen and experienced, I still have the invisible bond to my roots, to my home. I’m anxious to get back and rejoin the real world again, so anxious that I was kind of bummed out when I could not get an Amtrak ticket to start home any earlier than this Tuesday afternoon. Believe it or not, Amtrak was booked solid thru this Monday, that or I had a choice of coming back on Monday in a thousand dollar sleep car …….ah no on that one! So I’m here in Seattle until Tuesday at 4:40 PM, when I board a train and actually retrace over 1500 miles of my trip, but on a train. There were numerous times when I was out there riding and I saw the Amtrak train going by me east or west. So I’m just totally looking forward to seeing those same old stretches of road, but from a train. No headwinds. No sore ass. No watching the miles slowly tick by.

Now it’s not exactly a BUMMER, that I’m kind of stuck here in Seattle for another 2.5 days. It’s a beautiful city with just a ton of stuff to do, so I’ll not be bored. I’m going to walk around the city and shoot pics, eat at some new types of restaurants (I ate at two Vietnamese restaurants last night – more on that later), and just savor this awesome place. As I said, last night I just had to try some different dining options – no Subway, no buffet! So the first place I hit up was a Vietnamese soup restaurant, and it was just crazy good. I had no clue, here, other than the fact that I’d dined Vietnamese many years ago when Judy and I were in Ottawa. And the soups were off the charts good. So I looked at a menu that I just didn’t have a clue, and ended up ordering this rice noodle soup with brisket & and “tendon.” Yup, tendon, the chewy, crunchy stuff! And they had like 4 different sizes: small, medium, large, and XL. What did the foodaholic do” Yea, XL! And dude brings me this bucket of soup which could have fed a small Vietnamese family.

Haven’t used chopsticks and oriental soup spoon for years, and with no silverware on the table I wasn’t about to be Joe Tourista and ask for them. So I muddled by with the sticks and spoon. The soup was just awesome, and though I must have looked like a really rookie using those chopsticks, I was still able to get the noodles in my mouth. I left feeling pretty satiated, but yet wanted just one more “taster” for the evening, so I went to another Vietnamese place just up the street. This place had regular dishes in addition to the soups. So I ordered up the Vietnamese spring rolls and a charred pork and noodle dish. Again, the spring rolls were more like sushi, a wrap with rice and shrimp with a peanut dipping sauce. The pork dish was atop a heaping helping of rice noodles. Another homerun. I was just stuffed when I walked out of there. On the way back I stopped at this awesome grocery and picked up a Ben & Jerry’s for myself and for Duane, who was back at the Appt.

Earlier in the day, Barney and I had come here to this bagel shop for breakfast, and then we walked down to REI so I could buy yet another duffle bag for shipping gear home. Must have spent 2 hours in the place mulling about, and then watching kids climbing on this 6-story indoor climbing monolith. Walked back and then helped Barney load his SUV for his trip back to Vancouver. Got to tell you that Barney is just a fantastic guy, and I wish you could all meet him. I get this feeling that we’re like long lost brothers, him being my older brother, and me being the impetuous young pup. He’s an amazing guy, and I was blown away by the fact that he took the time and energy and money to come down here to Washington and ride me in to the finish. THAT meant more to me than I can convey to you! So the time came for us each going our own ways, and as usual we did a firm handshake and the dude hug thing, and then Barney hopped in his car drove away down Boyleston St and off to I-5 north to Vancouver. Thank you again Barney!!!

Well, that’s enough for the day, a day where I didn’t even ride a lick and yet I’ve been typing away for far too long. Been here two hours now sipping coffee and tapping away at this computer. I’ve got to get on to some work - enough blogtime. Talk to you tomorrow from Seattle………Pete

Saturday, July 31, 2010

Finishing the trip in Everett, Washington

7-30-10 Day 55: Gold Bar, Washington to Everett, Washington: 39 miles in 2:23. Rt 2 west to Everett Ave to Broadway Ave to Mukilteo Blvd to Mukilteo Speedway Rd.

The journey is complete – Houlton, Maine to Everett, Washington, 4012 miles across the United States, crossing Maine, New Hampshire, Vermont, New York, Pennsylvania, Ohio, Indiana, Michigan, Wisconsin, Minnesota, North Dakota, Montana, Idaho and Washington. I’m feeling a great sense of accomplishment and finality to the journey. More on that later.

First to bring you up to speed on the rest of last evening. Now I’d be fibbing if I were to tell you that I didn’t get “shnookered” last evening drinking five bottles of Black Butte Porter prior to going downstairs to eat, that after devouring about 2 pounds of cherries. Barney had some Hop Czar beers and the both of us watched this crazy show on the tube about knuckleheads doing crazy stunts on bikes and skateboards and such as I was finishing up the blog. Then it was downstairs to this little restaurant for dinner. And let me tell you, this was just the best. Now I’m not taking like 5-star restaurant thing, being all fancy and posh. Nope, just the opposite. This was a mom and pop place with a hometown atmosphere and a friendly, jovial waitress slinging grub!

Menu looked really interesting, but it ended up the we both got the very same dinner – Chicken Fried Steak. Yea, you’ll all probably rolling your eyes at that. But I’m telling you, there was just something about the restaurant and the atmosphere that told us to order the Chicken Fried Steak – like a voice from God or something…..”Order the Chicken Fried Steak with all the delicious, fattening gravy, and the scrumptious home made mashed potatoes …..order it and you will be happy cyclists.” Well, we must have both heard that voice because that’s indeed what we did. I also threw in an order of onion rings. And when those plates arrived and we dug into that thick, rich gravy – ahhhhh we were in another dimension! That was sooooooo good that I literally spooned up every last spackle of gravy from the plate. Barney enjoyed a glass of wine while we just talked life, our bucket lists and anything else that kind of flickered through our minds on the end of such a marvelous day.

Then I convinced Barney to walk over to the grocery to quench our – MY – sugar Jones. Got inside and right in the entry isle was a display of sugary treats – Eclairs! “Got to have those,” I thought to myself. So with that treat ingrained in my mind I wandered over to the ice cream isle and picked up a Ben & Jerry’s New York Style Fudge. Barney meanwhile was eyeing these “dessert wines.” Now I’d never heard of a dessert wine, my being more of a suds-aholic, so this stuff was like totally foreign to me. Well, he snagged it, and it was just this thin little bottle in like a paper casing. And on the way out I snagged the éclairs to go with the ice cream. Well, we got back, Barney opened that wine and I’ll BD, that stuff was sweet and alchoholly, really good! Perfect with the ice cream and the éclairs. And those éclairs were SUPER for being bought in a grocery – A-1.

I ate way more than Barney, finishing probably ¾ of the ice cream. And that bottle of wine was gone in like a flash. We finally settled down to watching the 2010 Giro De Italia on Versus – and we both literally ended up being knocked out on the beds snoring by 11 PM. I woke up all grogged out and Barney was just sawing logs like a lumberjack in the adjacent bed. Off went the TV and lights and that was a wrap for the day – a most memorable day indeed!

Got up at a casual 6 AM on this, the finial ride of the trip, and tapped out some blog while Barney was still sawing logs – and yes the man is a human chain saw when it comes to snoring. Once he rousted we went downstairs for a breakfast, and be damned if they didn’t have the chicken fried steak of the breakfast menu. DONE! Barney just was amazed that I went for the same freaking thing for breakfast as I had just had for dinner the previous night. But to me, that dish was just gastronomic heaven! Got two eggs and toast with it and life was good. We packed up and were on the road by about 9:15 AM, probably the latest start I’ve had in over a month – but who cares, I just had to ride 39 miles. The morning was cool, and fog enshrouded and off we went down Rt 2 west to the town of Monroe to dump my yak and panniers in Barney’s SUV. That ride took us exactly an hour. We checked into the Monroe Visitor’s Center for some route information to Everett, to kind of find a good end point for this trip, because hell, this was no “Cape Spear” like the last trip. On the Canada trip that was THE absolute end game. Here, I had no real designated place to call the end – I just wanted to make it to the Washington coast.

So we got a good map of the city of Everett and picked out a nice section of the coast where there were several parks and beaches. Picked a spot along a road called Mukilteo where there was a lighthouse and beach, and bingo bango, done. Then took off all the junk off mand stowed it in Barney’s vehicle and off I went to meet up with Barney in Everett at the intersection of Everett Ave and Broadway Ave. Ten min in I had to strip off my long sleeve Underarmor and leg warmers as the sun had finally broken through the thick fog. The ride was another pretty easy section that, now naked, I could just zing down at nearly 20 mph. The traffic was just thick as hell, but luckily I had this bomber berm to ride where there was no hassles from the vehicles.

Barney stopped a couple times along the way to take some pics and sag behind me. Round about an hour in I could see the downtown of Everett – and feel the crisp, refreshing scent of the ocean. The end was near. But I had one more obstacle, and it was like a carbon copy of our last day or riding in Newfoundland, where we had to get on a section of “restricted” highway, meaning no bikes allowed, to get to our destination. Yup, Rt 2 had a sign posted about 2 miles outside of the city that said: Motor Vehicles only! And it was there that the road really turned into freeway entrance ramps for I-5, which goes into Seattle and Vancouver. My berm narrowed down to about 2 feet wide and it was like this massive stretch of elevated interstate leading right into downtown Everett. And there was no getting around any other way, I mean I had to traverse this intercoastal marsh and a river up on the elevated highway.

It was just so close that I said to myself, *&^&^$# it, I’m going for it. What’s an officer going to do, tell me to throw my bike in his car?” “It’s just two miles.” So I just clicked down three gears and hammered it on this thin, crappy section of berm into Everett, on the very final two miles of Route 2, a road I’d been on since Ignace, Michigan up in the UP. I rode like my life depended on it hoping to make it through there without a policeman spotting me. And I did, right past the I-5 entrance ramps and into the city of Everett. I rode over to Everett Ave and that’s when Barney caught up to me. Then it was on to Broadway Ave, and finally Mukilteo Blvd, which was to snake it’s way down to and then along the coastline of the Sound. We had a bit of trouble finding that road due to recent construction, but finally got situated.

This pup was not easy, as it had some pretty stiff little ups and downs. Thankfully they felt pretty easy with me not having a yak to drag. Made it to two parks, but both had no, or very limited access to the water. As we were in one of these little community parks I asked a lady parked in a car where the parks were where we could go to a beach area. She gave me directions for a place three miles down the blvd, and off we went again, with my climbing and descending these rollers. The road finally dropped right down to the water at a ferry crossing for Whidby Island where there was a lighthouse and beach area. THAT was the endpoint – looked good, had all the elements for taking some finish pics. DONE.

The beach by that time, just after 11 AM was just packed with people. Was as if it were a Sunday afternoon down there on a Friday morning. The parking areas were darned near full. We got Barney parked and then I rode to the beach gravel, and then walked the bike down to the water, putting a front wheel in the Sound. And that was it – trip complete! We shook hands and then …….time for a beer and lunch. Ended up going to this awesome little micro brew pub that makes their sandwiches by bring you out this hot slab of rock, supposedly at a temp of 700 degrees, where you cook your sandwich meat on the rock, yourself, at the table. Pretty cool little gig actually. We each ordered our beer and then got the same sandwich – the sliced prime rib with beer dipping sauce – awesome!

Next up – on to Seattle to the REI store for a bike case and a duffle bag. And let me tell you, you think that traffic is bad back in little old Ohio…..hell, from Everett to Seattle it must have taken us 1 hour in bumper to bumper on I-5 south, around noon time to boot! And the distance is only like 20-22 miles. Got to REI and I was going to buy a Thule bike case, but coming back on Amtrak, they have weight stipulations on luggage – 50 pounds max – and the weight of that case and my 29’er was way over 50 pounds. So I talked it over with the folks at REI’s bike dept, and they suggest that I just use a regular cardboard bike box. And these were awesome people, as they gave me the box, the tape, the bubble wrap, and directed up to drive Barney’s car into their shipped dept bay where we could tear down the bike and gear and pack at our leisure. Between tearing apart the bike, yak, and all the gear, that took us 3 hours. But we got it done, even with the help of REI’s mechanics having to use a 2-foot long pedal wrench to break loose my clipless pedals. Great folks there. I bought a duffle for the broken down yak and even more gear and we got everything loaded in Barney’s SUV, and next up – finding my sister’s friend Duane in Seattle for our place to stay.

That was a breeze as he lives just 6-9 blocks from REI. Duane was kind enough to let Barney sack out for the night on the floor, and let me hang for a couple of days as I get my Amtrak stuff taken care of. He has this breathtaking view of the city from his living room window – I mean it’s like spectacular. So got all our gear up in Duane’s appt, and then we all went to a local restaurant just a block or two away for dinner and drinks. Had some great meals and just kind of relaxed. Couldn’t help but get the guys in the mood ……by taking them into going to a grocery for some Ben & Jerry’s ice cream for our night cap. We each got our own pint and then went back to Duane’s place, and up to the rooftop to eat ice cream, drink a beer, and look up on this fantastic night cityscape.

The day was done. Mission accomplished. Man, it feels Soooooooooo good to be finished! I just love doing stuff like this, but there always has to be an end point, something to think about once in a while, a goal, a place, the final destination after all the effort. That’s what makes these journey’s so satisfying – the end. Well, this is it. I’m going to sign off for the day, but tomorrow I’ll put up my …….kind of post trip synopsis. And I’ll blog for my journey back to Ohio on Amtrak. But once I reach Cleveland, that’s it for another season. So anyway, talk to you tomorrow from beautiful Seattle, Washington…..cheers…….pete

Thursday, July 29, 2010

The......Billion Dollar Ride

7-29-10 Day 54: Wenatchee, Wahington to Gold Bar, Washington: 95 miles in 7:31 hours all on Rt. 2 west.

THIS was the best day of the trip. It was like the Grand Finale of the cross country journey. But first let’s drift back to last night. Barney and I walked into the Wenatchee Downtown District to search out a good local pub/restaurant. Walked about 2 miles south and did indeed come to a really neat little downtown, with old style buildings and motif. We were sent to a place called McGlinn’s, and it was definitely a great place. Barney got the home made pizza and I got a chicken burger with the taste of the west. Our beers were micro brews that were awesome. We chowed in a big way and ripped through several mugs of suds. As we were at the bar the storms rolled in, and I mean they were just gully washers, with the rain coming in horizontally at times. We managed to time it right and walk back to the Motel 6 in a window of no rain. That’s about when my sugar Jones kicked in and we ended up going to this pie restaurant for some home made pie and ice cream. I got 2 slices and Barney one, and each of us got a scoop of ice cream. I feel kind of like a bad boy encouraging Barney to eat like a freaking hog like I’ve been doing.

Back to the motel and then the rain returned with this just amazing lightning and thunder storm going on through 10 PM. It was still storming like crazy when we hit the hay.

Got up around 5:30 AM, and we readied our gear to hit the road. Decided to skip breakfast there, and ride up to Leavenworth and then stop for breakfast. So the plan in place, and off we went. And it was a climb up as soon as we left the Wenatchee city limits, and that’s about the time Barney dropped my sorry ass up the non stop series of rollers stair-stepping up into the mountains to the west. From the get-go you could see the snow covered Cascade range from outside of Wenatchee. It was just amazing to see this because to me this meant that that was my final barrier to getting to the west coast. The day was just stellar, with just the perfect starting temp – somewhere in the mid to upper 60’s. I was tank top from the start. Now you could tell that the day in Wenatchee was going to be a scorcher, and we were riding the heck out of that and into the cool, crisp mountains.

Barney waited for me a couple of times as we worked our way up to Leavenworth, which as it turned out, was like about 20 miles or more from Wenatchee – we had it figured at about 12 miles. So just a little more time in the saddle to work up an appetite. Made it to Leavenworth in about 1:45 hrs, and it’s a wonderful, charismatic little town, looking like a some hamlet tucked way up in the the Austrian Alps. Just a very cool place. It was surrounded by all these high, snow covered peaks, and just had character oozing in every direction. Barney got the dope on the best breakfast place and there we went. I opted for a coronary clogging delight – biscuits and gravy, eggs and sausage – I needed something heavy to get me over 40 miles of climbing. Barney at least opted for some cakes and eggs and bacon.

Got our coffee Jones to finish off breakfast and then off we went – for the amazing 40-mile climb up to Stevens pass. Yup, 40 miles of climbing up to this pass, and hell, we’d already climbed about 18 miles up to Leavenworth, so add 40 more to that…….and well, you do the math. I mean the day couldn’t have been any more perfect – cloudless blue skies, light breeze out of the west, cool, crisp mountain air, on bikes climbing up the Cascade Range, and we’re totally surrounded by these amazing mountain peaks. The pitch of the highway was quite low at this point, being somewhere in the 2-3% range, and it was not bad at all. Got me thinking that hell, this day was going to be a breeze if the climbing was all like that. Barney was point man riding strong and easy up front. I’d draft off of him on occasion. Stopped numerous times to snap pics, so I drifted a bit back for a while. And the climb just went on and on and on with this marvelous false flat into the mountains. There were points where we were ticking off the miles at like 13-14 mph, and then others where the pitched bumped up a bit and dropped us down into the 9 mph area.

About 1:30 hrs after leaving Leavenworth we hit a sign that said that Stevens Pass was just 19 more miles, so I was pretty jazzed to have completed the first half of the climb in under 2 hours – we had figured that we may average 10 mph for 4 hours to complete the climb, so we were well ahead of schedule. Got me thinking, “shit it just can’t be this easy.” And it wasn’t! Right after that sign things changed, at least for me, in a very big way. Yep, the pitch increased to like 4-5%, and I’ll tell you, it felt like much more than that, and that’s when we really started to gain elevation. Up to that point I’d done all the climbing in the middle ring. But we were getting into sections where I was in my easiest gear in the middle ring and starting to feel the effort – big time. Barney…..he went up those pitches seated and just left me in the dust, riding like he was on a mission. I was out of the saddle trying to keep a rhythm and stay away from that damned little cookie.

Finally got to a point to where I was just hanging my arse off of the end of the saddle cranking in that middle cookie, and I said to myself, “ok dude, time to suck it up and drop into the little cookie.” And with that I relinquished and dropped down to the mini. Damn that felt good, just spinning away at like 5-6 mph. So Barney was gone by then and it was just me, the mountains, the beautiful day, the second to last day of cycling across the United States. Life was good no matter how tough the climbing could get. I was just in a state of ecstasy doing this ride. So bring it on! About this time I started looking at on occasional mile marker to get a handle on how far we’d gone on the climb – that and the time. By three hours into the climb I was just amazed we’d been climbing so long. Never had I done just one climb that lasted this long. This was just off the charts amazing!

Now I was plodding along just getting into the moment when I saw a sign that said that the road gets steeper, and I’m like, “damn, I’m already in the little cookie.” And the road sure as heck steeped out again and I was in my easiest gear, in and out of the saddle. It was appropriate though, this being the very last mountain range to climb before the finish, that I get throttled just a tad by the mountains. So it was just the breeze, the mountains, my breathing and my pedaling up, up, up. Now there was a point where I was really starting to think that I was close to the pass. I mean the elevations were going up by like 400-600 feet every 20-30 minutes and the last elev. sign I saw was 3800 feet. Add to that the fact that it looked as if I was about to kind of go across this little saddle between two really high peaks. So I just kept it going in and out of the saddle. Then I saw these cars parked on the side of the road and people mulling about several hundred yards ahead of me. That was it, because there off to the right was Barney standing and taking pics of me coming to the top of the pass. Damn that felt good – about 3.5 hours of non-stop climb up the mountain. We hit the top and got some water from a couple of folks who were headed east in their car. There were no services up there, and this gentleman offered up some ice cold water to Barney and I when I had asked him if there was anywhere around where we could fill up our bottles.

After getting our water fill, we just sat on some concrete barriers and ate our lunch – beef jerky, gorp, and a couple of sweet and salty bars. Man I’ll tell you, I was worked on those last 19 miles of climbing. Felt so good to sit on that concrete barrier and hand my sore arse over one end and just relax. We were up there for about 30 min. And we talked about having gotten there so early, why not just bypass Skykomish, where we were going to camp for the day, and just ride all the way back down to the town of Monroe where Barney had parked his car yesterday. DONE. We were going to go for the full Magilla. Barney said that it was just a descent for 40 miles. So might as well go for it.

Got back on the bikes for this BALZ descent down the west side, where the pitch was crazy steep, and the mph was going well over 35 with us hitting the brakes on a regular basis, but the crazy thing was that once we got going down on the west side, the wind had picked up to this just nasty gusting and blowing. I really had to grip the bars a bit more than normal, and this really started to pump up my forearms after about 30 min of straight descending. I mean we were jamming down the mountain, with these guardrails on our right, protecting us from taking multi-hundred foot screamers down the mountain if we screwed up. I’d look off to the right and like a thousand feet below I’d see the road and these tiny things moving – cars! So we were each shaking out our hands and arms on occasion to get the muscles limbered back up again to grip the bars. So we just had this steep section where we descended about 6-8 solid miles and lost like 2000 feet of elevation. Then it settled out a bit, and that’s when the gusting wind really affected us. I mean we had this big time headwind in our faces, and you could look over at the trees and see the branches and leaves just bending to the east with the force of the wind. It was definitely slowing us down in a huge way.

We’d hit little sections where the road kind of flattened out, or conversely, where the road just pitched up a tad, and what with the headwind, it was as if we were right back there climbing up the mountain, except that we were DESCENDING! So our decision to ride all the way to Monroe, that was beginning to look like a pretty tough cookie to complete with the wind. We passed Skykomish and just kept it rolling down. And when the pitch was fairly steep, it felt ….just ok. But when the pitch settled down, wow, that wind really put a damper on our descending efforts. Round about this time both Barney and I started to get the bonk going on. Me, I was starting to get the shakes. And with that I knew that I had to get some sugar in me asap. Barney stopped to knock down a gel or two. I told him I had to ride on to find a place to get a coke and candy or cookies. So I kept going. About 2 miles further I just had to stop and get some of my emergency stash – a couple of strawberry yogurt energy bars. Munched them down like they were my only meal in days.

Barney joined back up with me and we kept it going, with me still wanting to find a place for a coke – the proverbial heroin spike in my veins for riding. And we found it just a few more miles down the road, in the hamlet of Baring. Stopped at a little place that was post office/diner/general store/hardware store. Got a Pepsi and this coconut, chocolate chip thingy which Barney and I split. THAT was the ticket. We chatted for a bit with the two ladies there about our trip. I asked about the distanced to Monroe, and they told me it was about 30 miles away – a bit too far for me to make, as we were already at about 81 miles for the day. She suggested staying in the town of Gold Bar, about 13 miles away, where there’s a little motel, a restaurant, and a grocery store. So we decided that Gold Bar it was for the day’s destination.

Did that last 13 miles with a bit more energy from all the sugar I ingested in Baring. I pulled a bit and Barney pulled a bit. About a mile outside of Gold Bar Barney pulled into this little stand where a lady was selling cherries. Barney bought probably 5-7 pounds of them!! And again, off we went, into the town of Gold Bar about 1.5 miles down the road. We got a motel, actually a really laid out place with a full kitchenette - really awesome place. Ended up with about 95 miles of riding in 7:30 hours of saddle time. Damn what a day. This was the penultimate day of the trip – great scenery, amazing weather, awesome friend to ride with, a journey that is just 39 miles away from being completed. All the elements were there to make this so very memorable.

We got settled in, got some micro brews, skyped our ladies, and we’re just sitting here veging and waiting for me to finish this blog so we can go downstairs to eat dinner at the restaurant. This is a very cool little town, surrounded by mountains and river. Great place, great day. Tomorrow is a casual day. No early start. No big day in the saddle. No more tomorrow. The trips ends in 39 miles. Time to go eat dinner. Talk to you tomorrow from the Pacific Ocean…..Pete

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Welcome Barney

7-28-10 Day 53: Ephrata, Washington to Wenatchee, Wahington: 50 miles in 3:31 hours northwest on Rt 28 to Rt. 2 west.

Well gang. Almost there. One teeny, tiny little mountain range called the Cascades, and then it’s a dash to the ocean. Been a long haul man, a real long haul doing the majority of this thing solo and fighting headwinds on and off for the past 4000 miles. I’m looking back fondly at the hard days I endured to get to this point. Heck I kind of had this moment in my head way back in Maine, but I just couldn’t even attempt to conjure it up for more than a few seconds. No, you really just have to have the goals set from smallest onward: Goal for the hour; goal for the day; goal for the week; goal for the month; and then the overall goal – the end of the journey. And son of a gun, I’m like 2 rides away.

No I have to come to the confessional right now with respect to yesterday. You see I ate at Subway around 12 noon, and then went to Safeway and got a Ben & Jerry’s New York Style Fudge. THAT was a lot of food! Ok, so fast forward to yesterday evening. What did I do? Went back to Subway and got two more foot longs, and be damned if I didn’t eat 1.5 of the two. So I ended up with like 3.5 sub sandwiches in my stomach. Then, to add insult to injury, I needed a sugar fix, but was too lazy to go back out for something, so I got a fork and just ate peanut butter right out of the plastic jar. I feel so ashamed of myself…….not really! I swear, the less you ride doing a trip like this, the more time you have to just eat all day. Well, that was the case for yesterday. Then, to top it all off, I got on the net and map quested Wenatchee to see if there was a Subways close by the cheapie motels, and I hit a gold mine – a Chinese buffet. It was centrally located in the city, so I got the address and saved it for when I pulled into town to kind of line up the lodging with the Chinese buffet. Pretty sick isn’t it?

So today….Well, it was the same old same old for the morning and my usual routine – except that I had .5 of a Subway sub to add to the bananas and yogurts. Got on the road at like 5:45, despite the fact that I had just 45-50 miles to ride today. But the forecast was for super hot and mildly humid out, so I just wanted to get the riding out of the way before the heat machine was turned on high. Pulled out of Ephrata with the temp at 68 degrees, and I was in the tank top mode from the get-go. Had what seemed to be a nice little cross tailwind out of the southeast. Got into Quincy at about 15 mph average and was feeling ok. But then I started doing this climb, and it was steep at first and then kind of leveled off, but was a false, false flat. I mean I was looking at my mph and it was just killer to hold 10 mph, and I’m looking down at my tires to see if I flatted. NOPE. Looked behind me and I could see this ever so subtle false flat. Ok, shifted up a gear or two and just spun, and this thing went on forever. The only good thing was that I could see, way off to the northwest, the snow covered Cascade range.

After some 3-4 miles of this gradual false flat I finally kind of topped out, but I topped out on nothing. Wasn’t like I was at the top of anything, and there ahead of me was a steep descent sign, you know the one with the icon of the steep slope and the truck going down it. And I was looking around thinking, “what the hell, not as if I just climbed a steep pitch here.” “Why in the heck is there a steep descent sign here?” Well, I rode on for about 200 yards and then I saw it…..this massive descent, long and sweeping that had to be 3-4 miles long, taking you all the way down to the Columbia River. It was mind blowing to look at this thing. Shot a few pics at the top and then down I went, and it was just wild, totally out of control, and I had to feather the brakes just so I could stay in an “under 40 mph” mode. Get going any faster on a bike loaded down like mine and if you get into something bad, like chuck holes, rocks, junk on the berm, you’re just going to fast to react safely and then it could be ……BAD. So I stayed at a good speed and just descended and descended. Descended so long that when I finally did have to pedal my legs felt like I’d been sitting around doing nothing for 10 min. They were stiff and unresponsive.

Well, I needed those puppies to perk up fast, because I had a series of rollers to get over once the big descent ended. But I still wasn’t right down on the Columbia, nope, it was down in a gorge and several hundred feet further down. Now by this time the temp had climbed up to the low 80’s, and add to that just a hint of humidity, so the heat machine was definitely on it’s way up. I’d hit sections, because I was now riding in a northwesterly direction, where I was shaded by the canyon walls, and the temp difference was just amazing – felt great. So I was climbing small grades, and then descending even more for a bit, ever so slowly working my way down to the waterline of the Columbia.

Got to one section where there was a warning sign about super strong crosswinds, and it even had a wind directional down at the base to let you see how hard the wind was blowing and from what direction it was blowing from. Well I hit that area and like out of nowhere, and I mean from nowhere, the wind just cut into me like a gale as a headwind. Was as if someone had just turned on a giant wind tunnel. Well, it had something to do with the wind funneling down into this canyon at a specific point to be super concentrated. And it was, for about 3 miles with me struggling to maintain 10 mph, and I thought that I’d be just creeping into Wenatchee with a headwind like that. But be darned if the road didn’t kind of turn back to a westerly direction and the wind was darned near gone. It was just beautiful down there riding along the mighty Columbia, but a big dam just south of the town of Rock Island kind of put a damper on the wild river thing.

From Rock Island up to Wenatchee it was like cycling through the desert, very much similar to riding in the Flaming Gorge area in the US – hot, hot, hot! The foothill mountains were just blank and hot looking, with just a smidge of trees here and there. For the most part this place with just an inferno along the deep blue Columbia. That wind never really quit, it just softened out a good bit, but it was still blowing in my face. I just plodded along knowing that I really had a mellow ride for the day, not some killer 80-miler in the wind and heat. Finally looked at a mile marker and it read 4, meaning I had four more miles on Rt 28 to get to the jcn with East Wenatchee – totally doable no matter how hot it had become and how tired I was (telling you, I’m just totally beat down right now, fully functional on my bike of course, but I’m really spent with respect to the legs – they’re hosed!). Made it to East Wenatchee, and then crossed the Columbia River on a bridge and rode another 2 miles through town and bingo bango, I was in Wenatchee.

Scouted out the street where the Buffet was on which is Wenatchee Avenue, and then got a motel – got a motel for two people! Yup, Barney is on his way, or maybe even at the Wenatchee bus station as I write this. He will ride with me for the last two days of the journey, and I’m really looking forward to hooking back up with this guy – he’s one hell of a good traveling bud. Now there were a couple of cheesy places here as far as efficiencies go, but with Barney coming I thought I’d get something in the middle, not a 8x10 prison cubicle with a frige and microwave with a bed, so I went to Motel 6 and snagged a good sized room that would accommodate the both of us and our bikes. Problem was that it was just 9:30 AM and the dude did not have anything ready to move into on the first floor at that time. Said I could have something on the second floor, or wait till noon or one pm for a first floor room. Second floor it will be!

Got my gear in and got my computer going and found a message from Barney’s wife, Val, telling me that Barney had gotten up at 4 AM and was on his way. So I skyped him and he was just getting into the town of Monroe, Washington where he was going to catch a bus into Wenatchee with his bike on board. Done! Went to my little Chinese buffet and just went crazy. Another great buffet. I’ll spare Barney the buffet routine this eve, so I just really put the feed bag on and went to town this afternoon.

So that’s about it. I’m kind of hanging here waiting for Barney to arrive – got some beer in the refrig – and enjoying the AC. It’s just a purgatory out there right now, although I see clouds moving in from the south as I look out the window.

Barney thinks we can make Skykomish tomorrow – a 70-mile ride – and then do an easy Friday ride by descending down to the coast. We’ll likely be camping up in the mountains tomorrow in Skykomish, so I may not have internet access, and thus no posting of the blog that day. So if nothing’s up, that’s probably the reason. Anyway, almost to the end here. I did check out Amtrak, and it looks pretty good from the perspective that I can take all my junk on board and not get charged anything extra – well, save for a $5.00 charge for a bike box. Yup, five bucks to ship the bike with me! So I’m leaning heavily on doing Amtrak back home. The neat thing here, not accounting for the fact that I just love trains (I used to hop trains when I was a kid – sorry mom and dad), is that I’ll be traveling along some of the very roads I cycled along. That I think is very cool, to look out at what I’d just ridden for 1500 miles.

Well, Barney just made it here and we sat around and BS’ed for a good hour, with a few beers of course. He’s putting his bike together right now. Going to be a very awesome two days to the finish. More to come tomorrow. Cheers all……..Pete

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Spared from the heat

7-27-10 Day 52: Wilbur, Washington to Ephrata: 60 miles in 4:01 hours west on Rt. 2 to south on Rt 17 to west on Rt 28.

Man, I’m just really beat right now. Think it’s just part and parcel of riding cross country and going at it day after day. I think I had like 4 off days for the trip, and I’m starting to feel it. Thanks goodness these last few days are just mini-rides and not gonzo rides.

So did my usual breakfast thing with yogurt and bananas and got on the road at about 6:15 AM. Hell, I knew it was just going to be a 60-mile day, but I’m always waking up at 5 AM now, so I saw no use in just sitting around and twiddling my thumbs. Plus the weather folks out of Spokane were forecasting a front moving in from the south from Oregon that had the potential for some isolated storms later today. So, I got it rolling knowing that it would be a short ride into Ephrata, with an ETA of like 10 AM!

Got going and it felt much better than when I got up. The wind was light and out of the …EAST…..nice one there. This first section of Rt 2 west out of Wilbur was just rolling and rolling and rolling. With nice little hills and swales. The terrain was more of the farmland type as I’d experienced in the Great Plains. Off to the south, sure enough I could see the front moving in ever so slowly. Now the temp this morn was pretty sweet considering it damned near hit 100 yesterday, and that they were forecasting the same for today. But with the blanket of cloudcover moving in, the sun just wasn’t able to penetrate like it did yesterday, at least making it appear cooler out. Rode with the long sleeved jersey for about an hour, and then it was tank top time.

Made it through a couple of tiny towns and then arched southwest towards the the next big town – Coulee City. I hit a nice, fairly flat stretch and just jammed to Coulee City in no time. Made it there from Wilbur in like 1:45 hrs. Now I wanted to take somewhat of a detour from Rt 2 today and get away from just the desert and Great Plains type topography, so I opted to go on Rt 17 south through this monster gorge that was formed from a gargantuan flood eons ago. This rather than just ride west on Rt 2 to the town of Waterville where there are limited amenities. Plus, by going south through the gorge, I’d only have to do a 60-mile ride today and a 47-mile ride tomorrow, and be able to have my stopover in the town of Ephrata, which has a lot of stuff compared to most of these towns along the way. So 17 south I went, and it was just spectacular.

On the opposite side of the Grand Coulee and south of the Dry Falls dam, is this three and a half mile-long scalloped precipice known as Dry Falls. It’s supposed to be ten times the size Niagra Falls, and thought to be the greatest known waterfall that ever existed. Geologists speculate that during the last ice age epic flooding channeled water at 65 miles per hour through the Upper Grand Coulee and over this 400-foot rock face. At that time, it’s estimated that the flow of the falls was ten times the current flow of all the rivers in the world combined. According to the Visitor’s Center, nearly twenty thousand years ago, as glaciers moved south, one ice sheet plugged the Clark Fork of the Columbia River, which kept water from being drained from Montana. Consequently, a significant portion of western Montana flooded, forming a gigantic lake, Lake Missoula. Eventually, enough pressure accumulated on the ice dam that it gave way. Geologists believe that this process of ice-damming of the Clark Fork, refilling of Lake Missoula and subsequent cataclysmic flooding happened dozens of times over the years of the last Ice Age.

So I checked this Dry Falls out from the Visitor’s Center and it was just amazing to think of water cascading over it. And the gorge below was just wild looking. I rode down into the gorge for about a 2-3 mile descent, down to Park Lake, Blue Lake and Lenore Lake. There were places on the sides of the gorge where you could see the flood residue cemented together, these giant boulders and cobbles that formed giant sand bars of sorts, but this wasn’t sand, it was stuff as big as tables and basketballs and cars. Above that are these basalt cliffs with vertical columns of basalt just as I’d seen in Iceland. Matter of fact it looked just like a couple of the river valleys I passed on my cycling trip around Iceland – topography and terrain was almost identical.

Really happy I took this deviation, though it will add about 10 more miles on to my trip west – big deal there hah? The road undulated up and down along the string of lakes up alongside the basalt walls. Now just about 4 miles from the town of Soap Lake, about where the gorge was opening up back to plains, I started getting bitten by these horse flys, and damn they were viscous. Got a bite on the shoulder, back, hip…..ass! I mean I thought I was going to be in the hurt locker with these things for the remaining 10-12 miles. But as soon as I got away from the water the flies were gone.

Outside of Soap Lake I got on Rt 28 east and headed back towards Wenatchee and my destination, Ephrata. This was a nice flat stretch with a slight southwesterly headwind, but at that point I was just 10 miles away and couldn’t care less. Made it into Ephrata in just about 4 hours for 60 miles. Not a bad average for a day where I was just feeling tired and beat down. Got a little place on the west end of town – two blocks from a Subway. The cloud cover had set in by then and the temp was no where near what was predicted. Almost looks like it could rain for a bit.

So looks like a go to meet up with Barney tomorrow in Wenatchee. Then we’ll cycle across the Cascades to Everett for the finish. Looking forward to seeing Barney after nearly a year. So that’s it. Was a short one today, and even shorter tomorrow. I’m pretty beat and tired but really happy that my goal of coast to coast is just over the final mountain range. That’s a wrap for the day…….Pete